The German Heilpraktiker (HP), a non-medically trained practitioner of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), has repeatedly been the subject of my posts. In a nutshell: the profession was created by the Nazis and was originally destined to disappear within one generation. But this did not happen, and today there are ~100 000 HPs who are allowed to treat almost any condition without mandatory training or experience. Many HP schools exist but you can also become an HP without formal training.

Now a report has been published by undercover journalists investigating these HP schools in Germany. Here I have summarized a few crucial passages for you (if you read German, I strongly recommend reading the original article):

There are more than 150 HP schools in Germany. On average, training costs several thousand euros. There is no uniform and state regulation for the training. The curricula are mostly created by the schools themselves.

In addition to medical and psychological content, the schools often offer seminars that are not based on scientific knowledge. The curricula sometimes include courses such as astrology, homeopathy, or so-called quantum healing. HP organizations give indeed training guidelines. However, these are not met by about 83% of the schools.

The students were isolated at the HP school from their environment and urged to break off contact with their families. “Without us you are nothing. That came so often and I then, unfortunately, believed in it, because I was alone. If I had had no one else from school, then I would really have been completely alone,” explains a former student in an interview. “During that time, I also thought for the first time: Are we in some kind of cult here?

The school’s principal rejects the cult accusation: “We have been confronted with the allegation that we are a cult for some time and have always dealt with it very openly because we are not a cult. The principal also denies other accusations made by former students, saying that the allegations of suggestion, coercion, compulsion, or sweeping statements are simply false. He said he would be happy to face them “in a personal conversation outside the public eye to answer their questions.”

In order to get to the bottom of the treatment methods, the reporter also had herself treated by the principal of the school in an undercover self-experiment. In the first session, she determined that the reporter’s sciatica had been passed on to her by her mother, which is why she should sever her ties with her. In the second session, she recommended that she no longer visit her cancer-stricken grandfather. When the principal learned that the ill grandpa was of the zodiac sign Cancer, she concluded, “Cancer gets cancer.” The cancer, she said, was due to the fact that he had done nothing for his soul. And further, the patient runs the risk of adopting the grandfather’s cancer symptoms when she visits him.

The Hamburg health authority, which is listed as a “supervisory authority” on the school’s homepage, explains in response to an inquiry that no official supervision exists for HP schools. To obtain permission for opening a school, no training is necessary. Neither possible training courses nor institutions offering such training courses are regulated by the state.

The journalist also asked the Federal Health Ministry whether it sees the need for action and legal control. The Ministry’s response was evasive: “If necessary,” the HP law should be reformed in the future.


This is shocking news for many Germans who believe that HPs are well-trained healthcare professionals. However, those who have read my recently published book cannot be surprised. Poor training is only one of a myriad of deficits of HPs. It is time that the government realizes that the current is unacceptable and endangers public health. It is time, in other words, that the government does something about the HP profession.

4 Responses to The schools that train ‘Heilpraktiker’ in Germany: no standards and no control

  • The schools are not state-recognized, but in Bavaria they are subsidized by the state.

    In order to prevent unpleasant reports, the following applied:

    * Participation only possible with proof:
    * Permission to practice medicine or
    Membership card of the respective association or
    * Student ID

  • Das Problem mit den Heilpraktikern ist nicht nur die fehlenden Standards in der Ausbildung, sondern auch in der Erteilung der Heilerlaubnis. Die von HPs so fürchterlich schwierig bezeichneten Überprüfungen der Gesundheitsämter sind ein Witz! Man schafft die Problemlos ohne jeglichen Schulbesuch. Es wird auch nirgendwo ein Ausbildungsnachweis verlangt……. Ich habe das selbst erlebt! Ich könnte jetzt theoretisch mit meinem HP auf dem Gebiet der Psychotherapie mit wirklich ernsthaft erkrankten Menschen arbeiten. Ich bin auf keiner Schule gewesen und habe auch keinen Abschluss. Meine Grundlage wären Selbststudium von Literatur und zur Übung habe ich die schriftlichen multiple Choise Fragen der vergangenen Prüfungen durchgearbeitet. Nach einem halben Jahr Fleißarbeit bin ich problemlos durch die Prüfung gekommen. Ich könnte, wie gesagt theoretisch jetzt, genau wie ein approbierter Psychotherapeut mit Menschen arbeiten, die ernsthafte Probleme mit der Psyche haben. Ich tue das nicht, weil ich es nicht verantworten kann. Ich habe es auch nie getan, eben weil ich es für hochgradig gefährlich halte.
    The problem with the HEILPRAKTIKER is not only the lack of standards in training, but also in the granting of healing licences. The examinations by the health authorities, which HPs describe as terribly difficult, are a joke! They can be passed without any problems and without any school attendance. No proof of training is required anywhere either……. I have experienced this myself! I could now theoretically work with my HP in the field of psychotherapy with really seriously ill people. I have not been to any school and do not have a degree. My foundation would be self-study of literature and for practice I worked through the written multiple choice questions from past exams. After half a year of hard work, I got through the exam without any problems. I could, as I said theoretically now, work just like a licensed psychotherapist with people who have serious problems with the psyche. I don’t do that because I can’t justify it. I have never done it either, precisely because I consider it highly dangerous.

    • I’d even go so far as to say that this official exam (which indeed is a bad joke from what I read in Edzard’s book on the subject) and subsequent licensing are in fact more dangerous for patients than having completely unregulated alternative practitioners – because this exam and license lends a false image of dependability and trustworthiness to the knowledge and skills of HPs.

      Unfortunately, the international trend appears to be that ever more (groups of) SCAM practitioners succeed in obtaining various forms of state-sanctioned licensing (e.g. naturopaths in the US, who in many states are allowed to provide primary care), while in reality these people are exceedingly incompetent in diagnosing and effectively treating conditions.

  • Why training?

    The Swiss “Academy of Naturopathy” confesses that “quality is a matter close to our hearts” and believes and promises “22 essential quality criteria” 🙈 for its distance 🙈 learning courses.

    The lecturers of the Academy of Naturopathy are characterized by years of experience, research and 🙈 self-exploration, education and training, enthusiasm, expertise and passion. They live what they teach.

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